CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Thanks to West Texas A&M University, public Wi-Fi internet services are now available in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, according to a press release from West Texas A&M University.

Through WT Connect, visitors of the Pioneer Amphitheatre, home of the “Texas” outdoor drama which opens on May 29 and will run nightly except Monday through Aug. 14, can now connect to Wi-Fi with their phones and other devices to make calls, send texts, and browse the web, the release stated.

“We’re so fortunate in the Panhandle to have a place like Palo Duro Canyon. The beauty of the canyon and the access to nature it provides is so important for the physical and mental wellbeing of our visitors. But maintaining a park on the floor of a canyon is not without its challenges, and not least among them is communication,” said Jeff Davis, assistant park superintendent.

Davis continued, “This partnership with WT is going to have a huge impact on our visitors. Not only will they be able to share their experience in the park through social media, phone calls, and texts, but we also will have better access to life-saving resources in the event that someone is hurt or lost.
 WT partnered with Mid-Plains Rural Cooperative in Tulia to broaden existing installed networks and provide free internet service to visitors at the theatre, with plans to include significant portions of the rest of the state park.
“Without this partnership with Mid-Plains, this would not have happened,” said James Webb, WT’s vice president for information technology and chief information officer. “We explored running fiber from our campus, and it would have cost $1 million or more. But by working with this rural technology company and living up to the ideals of WT 125, we were able to conserve resources and still provide a valuable service to thousands of the park’s visitors, from here and around the country.”

According to the University, WT Connect will increase internet bandwidth speed by 500 percent, making it possible for WT faculty and students to eventually hold classes in the canyon.

Visitors will find a landing page titled “WT Connect” when they try to use the internet service on their phone or devices and they can access Wi-Fi after they enter their email address, like the internet services at the Buffalo Stadium and WT’s on-campus sports arena.

WT’s IT departments has worked with the Cultural Foundation of the Texas Panhandle, “Texas”, and Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum to provide new mobile apps for the show and museum, live panoramic and 360-degree web cameras at the theater, a virtual tour of PPHM, digital signage in the theater, and more features, according to WT.
The release said that a live feed of the show will be shown regularly in weather segments on NewsChannel 10 at 10 p.m.
Primary work on the project was done by Dan Garcia, director of information technology; Cody Fenn, a senior computer science major from Argyle; and Beau Robbins, a recent Computer Information Systems graduate from Fritch, the release said.
“The canyon is in our backyard, so to speak, so it just makes sense to partner with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to improve the visitor experience in Palo Duro Canyon,” Webb said.